How Brands Can Build a Successful App Strategy

12 Lessons From Benjamin Moore, Bank of America, Kraft and Others

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NEW YORK ( -- More than a year into the age of the iPhone app, brands are starting to get on board -- and best practices are emerging. At Wednesday's Apps for Brands event in New York, marketers taught other marketers what's worked for them. Here are 12 lessons culled from the day, during which CEO Bob Bowman and marketers from Kraft, Bank of America, Benjamin Moore and AKQA convened to talk about what they've learned from their early, successful forays into the space.

Apps must be real-time
People's expectations of apps, especially paid ones, are high. When it comes to streaming video or stats, don't provide content on mobile that's inferior to what the web or TV offers. It must update in real time. "The notion of the one-minute delay is unacceptable," said Bob Bowman, president-CEO, "If you don't have real-time content, you're dead."

Make it easy for consumers to pay
Take advantage of properties such as iTunes and mobile providers such as Verizon that have the infrastructure and back-end know-how to take payments from app users. When it comes to's paid app, the vast majority of purchases come through tried-and-true mobile-commerce providers instead of directly through "Partner with people who know how to collect money," said Mr. Bowman. And when it comes to figuring out how much to charge, it's easier to drop the price than to increase it, or move from free to paid. "If it doesn't work, take it down, rework it, try it again," he said.

Integrate feedback quickly
People will point out flaws in your app on the web. That feedback is an asset. Adjust your app as quickly as possible and send through an update. "All feedback is important, but on our app it's especially valuable," said Mr. Bowman. "When we went from offering two free [live-streamed] games to one, we heard about it immediately. We went back to two games the next day."

'This is not the wired web'
Mr. Bowman urges that marketers and publishers to not make the same mistakes in mobile that have been made on the internet -- and that means forcing ads into every spot they can. On mobile, click-through isn't the only metric that matters. Are people recommending your app? Or trashing it on Twitter? "We measure click-throughs, but we don't measure pissed off," said Mr. Bowman, referring to when MLB put an intrusive ad into its At Bat app.

People will pay for value...
Zagat's iPhone app is the 77th top-grossing app in the Apps Store, out of 58,000. MLB charges $9.99 to download the At Bat app, 99 cents to watch streaming video of games; it has 400,000 users. And Kraft charged 99 cents for its iFood app, promoting the notion that what it's offering was something of value. Additionally, pointed out Ed Kaczmarek, Kraft's director of innovation and new services, making an app paid allows you to offer future in-app commerce and subscription opportunities that just aren't available in a free app.

...But free works to drives sales for your endemic product
Benjamin Moore's Ben Color Capture app was built to build brand awareness for its subbrand Ben, as well as to drive traffic to stores. "We haven't accomplished anything until we sell paint," said Carl Minchew, director of product development, Benjamin Moore. The app lets users snap a photo of something in the world and than matches colors in the photo to paint shades in the brand's library. If that inspires a paint purchase, the app uses GPS to direct users to the nearest retailer.

Apps need to be part of an integrated message
AKQA, a digital agency that has created apps for clients such as Gap, Nike and Smirnoff, sells apps as part of marketing ideas and integrated campaigns, instead of as one-off projects, said Rei Inamoto, the agency's chief creative officer. The app then becomes integrated with the agency's thinking or larger programs, instead of something a freelancer or developer could do cheaper.

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Utility, frequency and viral distinguish long-term success
They are the qualities that get an app noticed in the new app economy, said Aileen Lee, of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers Partner, who works with the firm's $100 million iFund. For apps to become a sustainable business, they need to provide instant utility, have a high frequency of use and encourage word of mouth and network pass-along. How rare these qualities? IFund has funded only seven mobile ideas out of more than 3,300 proposals. Kraft's Mr. Kaczmarek is also valuing frequency: "Engagement is better than downloads," he said. "I'd rather have 100 engaged consumers than 1,000 downloads."

People find apps through other people
"Word of mouth is powerful in the app world," said Matt Galligan, CEO and co-founder of SimpleGeo, formerly CrashCorp. "If you talk to someone with similar interests, you can find the right app for you." Similarly, Mr. Kaczmarek said that word of mouth, social media and PR made up the most successful marketing for the brand's iFood app. Kraft also used e-mail, traditional print and online banners to drive app downloads. "Your point of differentiation is so important to cut through the clutter," he said. "No matter how small that point may be, it's important to highlight it."

Use existing assets to market your app
Reach out to your existing customers to trial your app using proprietary media, as both Kraft and Bank of America did. The latter promotes its iPhone app on and via its phone-based customer service force, which advises callers to use the app to access 24/7 information on their accounts.

App marketing needs to be targeted
"We're not doing big blowout campaigns for our app," said Jen McDonald, digitial marketing exec, Bank of America. "We're being very targeted on mobile." And that kind of advertising -- such as targeting mobile ads to particular types of handset users -- has resulted in at least 50,000 downloads of Bank of Amercia's mobile app, she said. As the number of apps in the App store has grown, that strategy won't change. And rather than spread the ad dollars allocated to promoting an app out over a longer period of time, do shorter marketing blitzes, advised Tony Nethercutt, VP-sales at AdMob. That will create surges in downloads. "Getting ranked in the app store is critical -- it's the No. 1 way people discover new apps, but that ranking is based on downloads," he said.

Don't discount the iPod Touch
"It's a sleeping giant," said Kraft's Mr. Kaczmarek. According to AdMob metrics, for example, iPod Touch users download 16.4 free apps and two paid apps per month; the average iPhone user downloads 7.6 free and 2.6 paid apps.

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Abbey Klaassen contributed to this report.

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